This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee parachutes into EA's Medal of Honor Airborne.
Every major civilization can agree that while all they're doing is trying to keep everyone fed and building enough triremes to fend off randomly spawning barbarians, wars are very annoying. Going to war generally means a lot of money getting wasted, a lot of people getting killed and a lot of bereaved young fiancés standing around on clifftops wearing tattered wedding dresses, gazing hopefully into the middle distance and going completely batty.
But when a society has had time to fester and become big, rich and stupid enough, it actually starts to enjoy a good war. War means an upturn of weapons sales, the bloated government get to feel like they're achieving something other than eating all the pies and it thins out all those retard babies the working classes have been busily squirting out by the truckload. And lest we forget, it also gives bright-eyed young warriors the chance to earn glory on the battlefield, along with dysentery and post-traumatic stress disorder. Take the superpower du jour, the United States; they're into war like it's the last day of the January war sales.
The Medal of Honor series has been going on since 1999, meaning that it has officially been going on longer than the actual second World War did. And if you put together all the games, films and TV shows that have depicted it, the Normandy Landings alone probably lasted somewhere within the region of six months. So why does the US have such a fascination about a time that everyone else would rather just forget about and move on? Well, probably because that was the last war in which they did any good; when they had a clear win over an unambiguously evil villain who posed a genuine threat, rather than any of these wishy-washy recent wars where they just run in, stomp all over a developing nation and run out again declaring victory around the time the population have to start eating their own dead.
Well, I'm four paragraphs in and I haven't even started talking about Medal of Honor: Airborne yet, but the game's pretty damn short so it all balances out. Basically you're all-American apple-pie-shitting bullet magnet Boyd Travers, a paratrooper who has somehow been transported into an alternate universe where the Axis forces were Saturday morning cartoon villains and everyone else is a colossal moron. The gimmick this time around is that you get parachuted in at the start of each level and get to choose your starting position, but there are usually no more than one or two safe drop points pretty close together and everywhere else is a highway to Nazi-bullet-bum-rape.
Fortunately a brace of friendly NPC soldiers are dropped into the fun with you, but they're all about as much use as a cream slice. Less in fact; at least a cream slice isn't constantly running in front of your gun while you are trying to shoot and gabbing off like it's all your fault when a stream of hot lead ruptures their pastry. Fortunately they all seem to realize how incompetent they are and rely on Boyd utterly to show them where to go and personally complete all the objectives like the teacher on a school trip. Unfortunately the enemy soldiers seem to make the same realization and will instantly start shooting you and only you the instant you expose one square inch of your lithe, supple body. And war stops being glorious and starts getting annoying when you are re-playing the same fucking bastard section for the ninetieth fucking bastard time because you don't posses the bionic cyber vision necessary to spot all fifteen hidden fucking bastard snipers who can draw a bead on and decapitate you before you can say "Uncle Sam."
Speaking of which, the patriotism is thick enough to cut with a bayonet. Leaving aside the issue that British soldiers are all conspicuously absent, the American soldiers are all ruggedly handsome and courageous who take bullets in the gut but bandage themselves up with the stars and stripes and insist on going on in the name of sheer bloody-minded bravado. The soundtrack consists mostly of orchestral trumpet wails, so heroic and mournful you can almost picture the tears running down the musician's face. And the Nazi soldiers all look like Jürgen Prochnow and sound like Hannibal Lecter. Whenever you show up they yell "Die Amerikaner!" in the tone of voice Lex Luthor would use to curse out Superman. The only area in which American is depicted as worse is in the weapons every American-made machine gun is a pile of ass and recoil while the only decent one is pinched from the Germans in the first mission and used for every mission from then on if you have any sense.
As evil as the real Nazis were, it seems they weren't evil enough for the developers, and so the accuracy is a little bit skewed against them, and then it's skewed a little bit more, and then it's put in a thumbscrew until it resembles a Slinky. I'm no historian but I'm pretty sure there wasn't an elite branch of stormtroopers who wore gasmasks, wielded mini-guns and could take three sniper bullets to the forehead before they died. And I'm also pretty sure the Nazis didn't have a gigantic armored concrete tower that could only be described as a Doom fortress. Which is weird because going into this game I was kind of under the impression that the Medal of Honor series tended towards historical accuracy, main character's bullet-absorbing tenacity not withstanding. And indeed that seemed to be the case until Johann Gas Mask showed up. By the end I wouldn't have been too fazed if Hitler appeared riding a giant robot spider.
But I guess historical accuracy is only of interest to British people and fags, so let's judge the game by its own merits. The gameplay's repetitive, the animation is jerky, the AI is irritating and the whole game is very brief, which on reflection I should probably be thankful for. I only played the single-player as usual, so maybe again the multi-player makes for it but it would need to teleport whores into the room before I started caring.
Clawed from your cold, dead fingers: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
The author would like to add that no disrespect is intended towards those lost in the Second World War although he does think that patriotism is for twats
Argue hollowly and pointlessly in favour of current U.S. foreign policy: email@example.com
The "Doom Fortresses" Yahtzee finds unbelievable actually existed and were called "Flaktürme", Flak standing for "Flugabwehrkanone" and roughly translating to "Air Defense Cannon Towers".
While technically there weren't any Flaktürme on the Normandy beaches there was the now recently rediscovered (2004) Maisy Battery, a 42 acre (four football fields) nightmare that turned out to be far tougher then the commanders of the invasion had ever dreamed.
- Opening Song: "Civil War" by Guns N' Roses from the Album Use Your Illusion II
- Closing Song: "America, Fuck Yeah" by DVDA